Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Memoirs of My Nervous Illness

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 30 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a614
  1. Kate Robertson, staff grade psychiatrist, Ardenleigh Centre, Birmingham
  1. kate.robertson{at}

    Cited and discussed by eminent psychiatrists and thinkers from Jung and Freud to Elias Canetti, Daniel Paul Schreber’s astonishing description of his experiences over eight years of incarceration in private and then public asylums in Germany around the turn of the 20th century remains one of the most revealing and fascinating descriptions of severe mental illness ever written.

    Schreber was a son of the famous German physician Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber, who invented—and practised on his own family—a draconian regimen of mechanical exercise. Daniel Paul studied law and became a judge, a profession he practised with success until he fell ill.

    Schreber, a rational man, is distinguished by the …

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